Exploring the world of The Fairytale Curse

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The Fairytale Curse is out at last, and can be yours for only 99 cents if you buy this week. You’re still reading? What are you waiting for—go buy it! I’ll wait.

Okay, you’re back? Excellent!

The Fairytale Curse, like The Proving series, is set in Sydney. What can I say? There are a hundred and eighty-three billion urban fantasy books set in American cities (or London, another big favourite). I’m just trying to redress the balance!

Sydney is a gorgeous city—the deep green waters of the harbour, the white sails of the Opera House against the blue backdrop of a sunny sky. Ornate old sandstone buildings glowing a honey-gold. Acres of the Botanic Gardens covering the foreshores with green.

Of course it’s also a modern city, full of skyscrapers of steel and glass, but it’s the older areas down near the water that I love most. The Rocks features again in this book, and the Art Gallery also makes an appearance.

This building too:

 

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That’s St Mary’s Cathedral, one of those old-fashioned long, narrow churches, with more spires and peaks than you can throw a stick at, built in that beautiful glowing sandstone.

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Look at the detail on the door!

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I’ve always had a soft spot for St Mary’s, because my mum and dad were married there. They took me there once when I was younger, and we went down to the crypt, which made a big impression. Dark and kind of creepy.

The cathedral and its crypt feature in the climactic scenes of The Fairytale Curse. Last year we visited it while we were staying in the city, because I couldn’t remember any of the details about the crypt, and I wanted to get it right for the book.

It was a lot different to how I remembered it, so just as well we went. Much, much bigger than I’d thought, big enough to accommodate a large gathering of people. (Though hard to photograph as the space is interrupted by a lot of arches supporting the cathedral overhead.) And beautifully decorated—solemn and dim, yes, but not at all creepy! I guess it was the mention of people being buried there that sent my young mind careering onto the creepy track.

 

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There is a stunning Celtic cross inlaid into the marble floor, 140 feet long, which features scenes from Genesis in large medallions.

 

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In the next book, The Cauldron’s Gift, I do take a couple of liberties with the interior. I needed something that isn’t actually there. Still, that’s the beauty of fiction—I’m allowed to make stuff up.

If you’re ever in Sydney, go have a look. It’s a beautiful church. You could go down into the crypt and pretend you’re Vi when all the—wait, can’t tell you that. You’ll have to read the book!

 

The Fairytale Curse cover reveal!

The amazing Karri Klawiter of Art by Karri designed this stunning cover for me a year ago. I’ve been busting to show it off! Now that the book’s release is only a couple of weeks away I can finally reveal it.

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Isn’t it gorgeous?? Karri has already designed the cover for the next book in the series too, and it’s just as beautiful. She really is super-talented, and a pleasure to work with.

I hope you enjoyed the first chapter that I posted last time. Here’s the blurb, to give you a better idea of the overall story:

“Most people only wake up with hangovers after parties. Seventeen-year-old Violet wakes up with frogs falling out of her mouth whenever she speaks, and her twin sister CJ’s dripping diamonds with every word. As if starting at a new high school wasn’t hellish enough, they’ve been hit with a curse straight out of a fairy tale, with not a handsome prince in sight.

Apparently Mum and Dad don’t work for the military after all, but for a secret organisation dedicated to keeping the magical denizens of the world safely locked away. These are not the harmless fairies of children’s tales, but powerful beings with a score to settle for their long years of imprisonment. Now the barriers are failing, and if Vi can’t find answers fast the world will be overrun with vengeful fairies. And then there’ll be no happily ever after for anyone.”

The Fairytale Curse teaser

The Fairytale Curse, first book in my new series, is coming out soon. Here’s a peek at the first chapter to whet your appetites!

CHAPTER ONE

The girl on the TV wore a long white dress, as if she’d been on the way to her wedding when she decided to lie down in a glass coffin instead. Her skin had a healthy glow; her cheeks were a rosy pink and her lips bright red. She certainly didn’t look dead. I almost expected her eyes to flutter open as I watched.

“Janey!” Dad never took his eyes off the TV. “Come and look at this.”

Mum came in with a this better be worth it expression on her face. She didn’t approve of watching TV at breakfast time. Whenever Dad picked up the remote, she’d roll those sharp green eyes of hers and sigh in that I’m so disappointed in you way. Not that Dad took any notice. You’d think she’d have gotten used to it after twenty-one years of marriage, but every morning it was the same old same old. It always ended with her huffing off to another room as soon as her cereal was done, where she made as much noise as possible until the TV was turned off again.

The footage was wobbly, as if it had been taken with a mobile phone, and only lasted a few seconds. The camera panned around a small clearing in what looked like dense forest. And not the kind we have in Australia, either. This was forest straight out of Central Casting, dark and foreboding. Huge pines towered over the scene, leaning in as if whispering secrets to one another. In the centre of the clearing, in the gloom beneath the pines, stood a massive marble platform. How the hell it got there, I couldn’t imagine, since there didn’t seem to be any gaps in the trees big enough to drag a huge lump of stone like that through. On top of it rested the glass coffin.

The girl inside was laid out like royalty at a state funeral. Her dark hair fanned neatly across the pillow, and her hands were clasped precisely on her chest. Whoever had put her there had obviously taken a great deal of care. They’d even tucked a single red rose into her hands, its colour a perfect match for the lipstick she wore.

“The unidentified girl was found early this morning in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, not far from the popular tourist destination of the Three Sisters.” The camera zoomed in on the girl’s still face as the reporter spoke. She could have been anything from sixteen to twenty-six. “This footage was taken by the hiker who discovered her. Despite appearances, she isn’t dead. Emergency services took her to hospital where doctors found her to be in a deep coma, though apparently healthy. There is no visible sign of trauma, and police are appealing for anyone who can shed any light on the mystery of the Sleeping Beauty to come forward.”

Dad snorted. “Sleeping Beauty, my foot. Idiot doesn’t know his fairy tales.”

And Dad did? He was more comfortable with gadgets than books; I would never have suspected him of an interest in fairy tales.

The picture changed to the reporter standing in the same clearing. The coffin was gone, but the platform remained, cordoned off with police tape. Good luck shifting that sucker.

“I’m here with a local resident, who’s lived in the area for the past fifty years.”

The camera pulled back to reveal a grizzled old bloke who could have claimed to have lived there for the past hundred years and I’d have believed him. He had the leathery look of someone who’d spent a lot of those years outdoors.

The reporter turned to him with an encouraging smile. He was probably afraid the old guy would drop dead on national TV from the excitement.

“You were telling me before that there’s even more to this mystery than first appears.”

“That’s right.” The old man nodded vigorously. “I was a park ranger before I retired, and I know this area like the back of my hand. I’ve probably walked this trail more times than a young bloke like you’s had hot dinners.”

The reporter chuckled. “And what can you tell the viewers about this spot where we’re standing?”

“It doesn’t exist, son. At least, that’s what I’d say if I wasn’t standing in it, if you see what I mean.”

Hmm. Old guy wasn’t making any sense. Maybe he had dementia, and the reporter was about to make an idiot of himself live on camera. Mum and Dad were staring like three-year-olds hypnotised by a Disney movie. I’d never seen Mum pay that much attention to “that idiot box” before.

The old guy waved a bony hand at the trees looming over the clearing. “These trees here, they look pretty established, don’t they? Forty, fifty years old, maybe. But I’m telling you, they weren’t here last time I came down this track, and that’s only a couple of years ago. Maybe weren’t even here yesterday, you know what I’m saying? The main trail’s only twenty metres that way, and this whole section is nothing but gum trees and other natives. Not a pine tree for miles.”

“But the clearing was here?”

“Nope. Well, I mean—just look at that grass.”

The camera swung to focus on the grass, which didn’t look all that sinister to me. It was just grass.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s thick and green. Looks freshly mowed, doesn’t it? More like a putting green. Grass doesn’t get like that on its own, you know. You’ve got to take care of it. You seen anybody standing round the middle of the national park with a hose and a lawn mower?”

“So how do you explain it?”

The old man shrugged. “It’s got to be a hoax, hasn’t it? Probably one of those reality TV shows.”

The camera zoomed in on the reporter. “And there you have it. A mystery girl in a mystery clearing.”

The reporter signed off, and Mum reached for the remote and started flicking channels. Cooking shows and cartoons flashed past, but there was no other news. She turned it off, and for once Dad didn’t complain.

“What do you make of that?” he asked. “Did that girl look familiar to you? I feel like I’ve seen her before somewhere.”

Mum said nothing. Her forehead was creased into her thinking frown. No point talking to her when she got like that. She probably hadn’t even heard him.

“Do you think that guy was right about it being a hoax?” I asked. “Is this the kind of crap they get up to in Sydney?”

Dad seemed to have forgotten all about his cornflakes. They’d gone all soggy in the bottom of the bowl. “Snow White in the Blue Mountains? Either that or a serial killer, I suppose.”

“But she’s not dead.”

“Not a very good serial killer then.”

I refused to laugh. I was still mad at him for dragging us down to Sydney, just when things had been going so well in Townsville. We’d been there nearly two years, the longest time we’d ever stayed in one spot. “Snow White, is it? I didn’t know you were such an expert on fairy tales.”

He grinned. The corners of his eyes crinkled up when he smiled, making him look like a mischievous kid. It was hard not to smile back, but I wasn’t giving in. “Hidden depths, my darling. Hidden depths.”

A thunder of feet on the stairs announced CJ’s arrival. She was always running late in the mornings—probably because she spent so long in the bathroom doing her makeup.

“Have you seen my black hairband?” She shot me an accusing look.

“As if I would dare borrow anything of yours without asking.” My twin wasn’t big on sharing. At least not me sharing her stuff. Her sharing mine was apparently just the natural order of things.

“Good morning, darling daddy, I hope you slept well,” said Dad, watching her bang around the kitchen getting breakfast.

She snorted, but dropped a kiss on the top of his head before flopping into the seat next to his. “Morning.”

She, at least, wasn’t holding the move against him. She’d been hanging out to get to the big city for years.

Breakfast was at the small round table in the meals area off the kitchen. The dining room was still piled with the last boxes from the move. After two weeks, the unpacking was nearly done, but there were always a few odds and ends it was hard to find a home for in a new place. Like photographs, or Christmas decorations. Or our baby clothes that Mum had been carting around for the last seventeen years and ten houses. Every time we moved she and Dad went toe-to-toe about throwing them out. Again.

“Have you seen it since we moved in?” I asked.

“Wore it on Wednesday,” she mumbled around a mouthful of cereal.

“Well, I haven’t got it. Besides, you’re only allowed to wear accessories in school colours.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right. Like I’m going to wear ribbons in a lovely shade of cat vomit.”

“Caramel, please, Crystal,” said Mum, suddenly tuning back into the conversation. “Not cat vomit.”

“Whatever. I liked our old uniform better. The blue matched my eyes.”

Mine too, but that was about the only thing we had in common—we both had Dad’s blue eyes. Most people couldn’t believe it when we told them we were twins. CJ was about ten centimetres taller and three cup sizes bigger, so everyone assumed she was my big sister. She could easily have passed for twenty, though we’d just turned seventeen.

Me, I’d gotten my height from Dad—which was to say, I had none. CJ not only had Mum’s height, but she’d gotten her beautiful sleek dark hair too, not to mention the skin that tanned golden-brown the minute she even thought about going outside. She looked like a younger, blue-eyed version of Mum, whereas everyone could tell at a glance I was Dad’s daughter—short, with pale freckled skin that never ever tanned, and a mass of orange-coloured steel wool that passed for hair.

The uniform of our new school was a gross mustard brown, but it looked good on CJ. Everything did. Somehow it made her skin glow even more golden, and the blue of her eyes fairly leapt out of her face. In the same dress, I just looked washed out—also pretty common, given that my skin was so pale the veins in my arms stood out like a road map.

“Well, you know what they say,” Dad said. “A change is as good as a holiday.”

I shot him a look sharp enough to cut him to ribbons. Him and his stupid sayings. “Probably the people that say that haven’t moved quite as many times as we have. I don’t need any more holidays like that, thanks very much.”

Mum’s face was an odd mixture of sympathy and guilt. “I know you haven’t been very happy about this move,” she began.

“This move? When have I been happy about any of them? Would it be so much to ask if we could just stay in one place for more than two seconds at a time?”

This was our fourth high school, and I was getting kind of sick of making new friends. It hardly seemed worth the effort any more. I’d just start to get comfortable, then Mum and Dad’s stupid job would uproot us and dump us on the other side of the country. Again. They worked for the military, some top-secret hush-hush thing.

“I promise you this is the last one for a while,” she said.

Like that was supposed to be comforting. “How long is a while exactly? Six months? A year?”

“I’d tell you,” said Dad, “but then I’d have to kill you.”

I rolled my eyes. Like I hadn’t heard that one before.

“That kind of information is classified, Violet,” Mum said. “Curiosity killed the cat, you know.”

Yeah, I did know, because she’d been telling me that since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. It was one of her favourite ways of shutting down a discussion.

“Doesn’t your bus come soon?” Dad asked, one eye on the clock.

In Townsville we’d lived close enough to walk to school, but not any more. Everything in Sydney was bigger, further away, and more crowded. Welcome to the big city.

“Yeah.” Guess that was the end of that conversation. It made me crazy how they’d never give you a straight answer if it involved their stupid work. I stomped into the kitchen to pack my bag.

“We might be late home tonight,” Mum said, changing the subject with her usual skill. “There’s lasagne in the freezer if you get hungry.”

“Don’t worry about us.” CJ crammed in the last of her breakfast and grabbed her school bag. “We’ll be fine. Come on, Vile. You don’t want to be late in your second week, do you? Might make a bad impression.”

“I’m only ever late if I wait for you, Cryssie.”

“Bye, Violet. Have a good day.” Mum was the only person who called me Violet. She called CJ Crystal too—she said she couldn’t see the sense in giving someone a perfectly good name and then never using it.

I shoved my lunch in my bag without replying. The chances of having a good day were pretty damn low, all things considered, though I doubt she really cared.

I looked back as we reached the door. Mum had turned the TV back on to the news channel. Well, that was a first. Was the girl in the glass coffin really that interesting? It was probably just some stupid advertising stunt.

 

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Follow the spark

Once upon a time, a writer wrote a book full of twists and surprises, about dragons and werewolves, mothers and lost children, loves and betrayals. The first draft was completed in the rush of blood called NaNoWriMo, and for once the writer was so pleased with her story that she stuck with it and started the laborious process of revising and beautifying.

The plan was to finish this process loooong before Nano rolled around again the following November, which would leave her plenty of time to plan the next novel, which would be a continuation of this exciting story.

Can you guess what happened next? Or rather, didn’t happen?

Yes, that’s right, I didn’t finish the revision. I still have seven scenes to go. As November loomed closer I began pushing myself to plan the next novel while still madly revising – not an impossible task, certainly, but every time I tried I ran up against the same problem. I knew, in very large terms, what needed to happen, but everything I loved about the first book was missing. The twists and mysteries were what made the first book exciting for me, but they’d all been revealed, and the second book would be a much more straightforward “kill the baddies, win the battle” affair.

And I couldn’t think of any way to make it interesting enough that I wanted to write it.

I’m sure, ultimately, I will be able to, but with mere days left in October I knew I couldn’t come up with anything in time. It looked like I’d have to sit Nano out this year.

Then, on the 30th of October (why do I do this to myself?), I thought: Self, don’t be such a piker. Why don’t you just write something else?

Oh, sure. Last year I was so organised. You should have seen me! I had characters, plot twists – scenes planned out on index cards. Me, the ultimate pantster, and I even had an outline! I was so proud of myself. No more flailing around in the dark! And Nano had gone so smoothly as a result.

And now here I was, getting ready to buy a ticket on the express to Flailsville again. What was I thinking?? I didn’t even have an idea. What could I possibly find to write about in one day?

Well, said the little voice, you always said you wanted to write a version of the fairy tale Toads and Diamonds. Even as a kid, though I’d loved it, it seemed to end too soon. But what happened next? Maybe I should write it and find out.

A little spark of excitement flared. Okay, get out a pen and piece of paper, and write down half a dozen different ways you could approach it. Change the sisters to brothers? Set it in an unusual location? Tell the story from the “bad” sister’s point of view?

Soon I had a bunch of ideas and a whole lot more excitement going on, and that’s what decided me. Write the book I felt I should write, or the one I now really wanted to write?

Easy decision. Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re not bursting with excitement at the beginning, the chances of making it to the end aren’t good. When you have two (or more) ideas to choose between, go with the one that sparks for you. 

So that’s how I came to be 13,361 words in to Attack of the Fairy Tales, a novel I had no inkling of a week ago. I’m living in downtown Flailsville again – crazy place, but a lot of fun sometimes.

So there’s my writing tip for the week: follow that spark!